T-Shaped Marketers - Organizational Shift For Marketing Agencies in 2017

3 min read

Since this year is giving its last breath, and 2017 is starting its 365 days long journey, I want to share my 2 cents regarding the well-needed changes to be done in marketing agencies.

It’s that time of a year when we all review the year behind us and make plans for the one that’s coming.

Marketing is evolving, each passing day becoming much more complex and changing rapidly. As a consequence, a need for change in marketers’ skills is not an exception too.

I believe one of the biggest dilemmas in 2016 was, and still is: What kind of marketer is the best marketer – generalist or specialist?

Should we focus and specialize on one marketing micro area and become an expert in that specific area or should we aim to be generalists and learn a little bit of everything in the vastness of digital marketing skills?

Most of you will agree with me that there is no such marketing guru who can learn everything about everything. In other words, the idea of a single person having the same, top level of expertise in all the skills under the digital marketing umbrella – like SEO, paid advertisement, email, inbound, outbound, content, direct and other types of marketing, graphic design, web design, creative thinking and at the same time, perfect analytical skills – is utopia.

So many questions and options to choose from

As I don’t like to make decisions just by guessing, I did my homework and made a research on this matter. What is other experts’ experience related to our dilemma?

This is the point when I came across the term T-shaped marketer.

To be perfectly honest, I’m really not a fan of ‘shiny’ job titles and bloated corporate hierarchies, but the term T-shaped marketer has got my full attention. I’ll even go a step further here and say that we’re already trying to implement it in on a practical level here, in Point Visible marketing agency.

Job title

You can think of it like “Oh no, just not another revolutionary marketing term”, but believe me, it’s the last call for you to at least consider it as an option.

Have you ever think about your employees as T persons? If not, maybe you should. Especially if your budget doesn’t allow you to have enough specialist. IMHO, either you have the budget or not, having only specialists in your agency can cause decreased teamwork efficiency.

It’s the last chance to catch the flight – to say goodbye to the vertical specialists and say hello to the t-shaped marketers.

Who Are T-shaped marketers in the first place?

In the past, but even today too, marketers usually define themselves by their specialty. They have their vertical titles like SEO specialist, social media specialist, email marketer, outreach specialist, PPC specialist, analytics specialist, graphic designer etc.

Marketer

A T-shaped marketer is a person with a broad general understanding of all marketing fields and a deep knowledge of one or few of them. Besides specializing themselves in one or few areas of marketing, it’s important that T-shaped marketers know what can be achieved in other areas too, without necessary knowing exactly HOW to achieve that.

Having such marketers in your team could lead to skills overlapping in some parts of the teamwork, but this is a well-accepted trend in marketing today. The advantages are huge and visible in every phase of a marketing campaign lifecycle.

For example, brainstorming ideas in a team which has a good understanding of actions and consequences of these actions on all aspects of a marketing campaign can bring remarkable results and solutions to problems by generating ideas that wouldn’t be even considered in a team of specialists. With a broad picture, marketers will easily interact with each other.

For instance, a graphic designer must be familiar with marketing trends in social media channels so he can create graphics that will convert well, while a person with a passion for social media marketing must know the basics of image editing in tools like Photoshop or any other tool (Canva, Pablo, etc.).

The benefits of an approach like this are numerous:

  • team members can jump in and replace each other quickly
  • ideas are generated faster
  • communication is easier to lead and follow
  • flexibility is high as team members are ready to take temporary assignments in areas they are not necessarily specialized for
  • tasks are accomplished faster as there is no need to wait for specialist’s intervention on smaller tasks that other team members can do by themselves

The list goes on…

Conclusion

Marketers today, despite all the complexity and technology changes, can actually do much more on their own than ever before, if they develop their set of skills in the right way. I will always suggest having a generalist T-shaped marketer with a focus on one few specific areas in your team rather than a specialist.

In rare occasions when this is necessary, you can always outsource jobs to a specialist if you need one (Upwork, Freelancer…). This way you can increase your efficiency and lower your costs of having a specialist on your payroll at the same time. Also, the T-shaped marketers will usually learn new skills fast because they already have a decent understanding of all relevant micro areas related to marketing.

And knowledge was never easier to access as it is in the ‘online times’ (which is especially true for areas related to the Internet, such as marketing on the Internet).

So, what’s the conclusion? With the T-shaped marketer’s approach, the quality of service can be significantly improved. Increased flexibility and faster deliverability can become a competitive advantage or a strong selling point, no matter if you’re an agency or a freelancer. And all that without increasing costs.

Turning yourself or your team members into T-shaped marketers could be a great move for your agency or even more important, for your clients.

Martina Stricak

Martina is a co-founder of Diversis Digital and Point Visible. She is a digital marketing addict with years of experience, who also enjoys graphic design, both @work and in her free time. And yes, she loves to travel.
To travel a lot.

©2018 Point Visible. Point Visible is a part of Diversis Digital.

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